Gov. David Paterson, state legislators and the MTA were close to hammering out a deal Thursday night to keep student MetroCards free for city school kids.
Under a deal on the table the state would still put just $25 million toward subsidizing the cards and the Legislature would allow the MTA to borrow more for its five-year capital plan.
The state and city each normally pitch in $45 million for the program, but last fall Albany dramatically cut its funding to $25 million. Faced with its own budget crisis, the MTA said it could no longer afford the free rides.
A planned 7.5 percent fare hike in 2011 would help the MTA defray some of the lost state funding. The MTA said it’s not considering raising fares in 2010.
Parents citywide are holding their breath to see if they’ll need to shell out hundreds just to send their children to school in September. “It’s just myself and my mom and she just bought a house,” said Valerie Bynaar, a ninth-grader at A. Philip Randolph Campus High School in Harlem. “She would have to pay $1,000 on top of a mortgage. It would be a financial struggle.”
Assemblyman Richard Brodsky said threatening to cut the free rides was merely a “bargaining chip” in budget negotiations between the state and the MTA. “It was not fair to use the kids as a leveraging tool,” Brodsky said.